Major League Soccer

The MLS Designated Player Arms Race

HenryAngel (ISIphotos.com)

Photos by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com

Designated Players are being signed, rumors are flying, and some of the sports biggest names appear to be heading to Major League Soccer.

Yes, the times are changing.

Thanks to new MLS rules that allow teams to sign as many as three Designated Players, teams all over the league are signing or preparing to sign big-name players who may not have been otherwise signed if not for the rule change.

Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho,Rafael Marquez and Nery Castillo are names most MLS fans wouldn't have pictured all converging on MLS so suddenly, but it's clear that teams aren't being shy about spending money on big names.

Could MLS be heading for a spending war as the league's big market teams flex their muscle while smaller market teams try to find ways to keep up?

Here is my take on this new development for Fox Soccer. There is no denying that the league's landscape is starting to change dramatically thanks to the new rules, and it will be up to teams across the league to decide how best to handle the changes.

What do you think of the influx of Designated Players? Happy to see it? Worried the league is overspending or loosening the purse strings too quickly?

Share your thoughts below.

Thierry Henry (HowardCSmithISI)

  • Nathanael Greene

    I used to be on your side. I used to wish that the MLS would adopt a European style, so we could be more like the Premier League. Now I love the fact that our league is distinctly American and I embrace it’s playoff system. I suggest you do the same. This is American soccer.


  • Nathanael Greene

    Yes! Checketts has done a fantastic job with this team in just about every aspect. I was worried when Kreis went from being player to coach, but he has really done a great job.


  • Rex

    Ironically in the Fox article Ives compares Houston to LA in regard to spending habits when in fact they have the same owner. Whats wrong with that picture?


  • Mr. X

    Beasley should be announcing where he’s going by week’s end. Chicago still has the DP slot open. Any truth to the rumor the Fire might sign him?


  • phil

    I heard he’s buying the English national side for the same reason. he’s gonna be captain in 2022 BTW…


  • phil

    agreed, they’d have to get lucky the leprechaun to resonate with “the irishes” up there…

    now get a looker like Michel Arteta for the mommies and you’re talking seaosn ticket increases.


  • phil


    “It has been my opinion for several years that the biggest problem in MLS is not a shortage of talent, although that is an issue. The biggest problem is a lack of a truely competitive regular season.”
    1. WELL SAID

    “There’s no doubt that teams coast a bit through the regular season”
    2. yeah, but that’s the part played in August, and it’s more like slogging than coasting.

    “The league is barely 14 years old, what do you expect?”
    3. Personally, I expected a merger with USL by now and a PROMOTION/RELEGATION system where EVERY GAME COUNTS, and with the equality of a salary cap you would see a lot of horses running for their lives in that kind of race, not the big 4 team stalemate on the other side of the pond. I just don’t get the “not american enough a model” argument… it’s the most meritocratic system out there, and what american pie hole filling american wouldn’t love such a up from the bootstraps story as someone like the Harrisburg City Islanders taking the MLS title after a three year long meteoric rise?

    But I also expected that MLS would be on a synchronized calendar with the spain and italy and england leagues by now as well, so what do I know?


  • sciroccer

    As a RSL fan I’m a bit worried. I think RSL, and LA have the most depth of talent on their teams. However, I can’t see any team in the MLS competing anymore with LA and NYRB. I thought the whole point of the leagues payroll design was to keep it competitive? I know every team has the same options, but let’s face it smaller markets won’t be able to compete with LA, and NY. Those major, major cities will start to purchase bigger names, assuring themselves they are 1 of 2, or 3 teams that has a shot at the cup. Fans in other cities lose interest, stop buying tix, and the league folds! I wonder if Don Garber remembers the NY Cosmos???


  • phil

    OR the league could just put a 4 million dollar pricetag over their heads like they’re gonna do with LD.

    You know, that’s a great idea. I get it when a player leaves MLS to give EPL, Liga Serie A etc. a go, but to lose a rising nats players to the interlands of the NorBelScaxican league is a bit of a buzzkill for the fan (yes it’s all about us).

    Of course, in another 5 years the MLS will be more competitive than NorBelScandinavian leagues so we won’t have quite the same problem anymore, so….


  • TGA

    The casual fan doesn’t know Thierry Henry from Henry Kissinger. The point is that the league will over spend and over expand just like NASL. Is any MLS team making money today?
    Once the league crashes we can then entertain the casual fan with the Austin Aztecs v Tampa Bay Rowdies in the league championship


  • 45245245246423

    The Revs are close to huge Portuguese and Brazilian communities so a player like Deco, Ronaldinho, Diego, Nuno Gomes etc would really help attendance.

    (Not saying these are realistic DP targets just using them as examples.)


  • Matt

    I’ll probably be lambasted for this, but i think teams should take DP money and put into a youth system so we can foster our own players…


  • RPH

    I’m more concerned about those sleeveless practice jerseys. They make the players look like my high school girls volleyball team.


  • bf

    nice… he sucked. I say H-town doesn’t need a DP. We have a good coach who has produced solid players. Viva Naranja.


  • RooneyFan_05

    As a Revolution fan….we wait…..and wait…..and wait…with no TT, and no Ralston, how does this team score goals. The rookies can’t do it. Dube can’t do it consistantly, and Nyassi can’t cross the ball.


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